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Restaurants, bars, retail stores, salons and gyms allowed to open Friday with restrictions

Crook County will once again open for business – on a limited basis.

Acting on an opportunity to begin the first of three phases to reopen the local economy, Crook County government and health leaders submitted a plan and application to state officials last week. Its approval was officially announced Thursday, allowing businesses to begin reopening Friday.

The state-mandated closures to bars and dine-in eating at restaurants as well as other "non-essential businesses" were announced on March 16. Multiple local businesses adjusted their business practices or closed in the wake of the new restrictions, with many converting to take-out only.

This closure joined other closures to local schools and parks in the community as the governor recommended social gatherings be limited to 10 people or less and residents stay home as much as possible.

The news devastated the community and left many business owners uncertain about the future. As the weeks passed, residents and elected leaders grew more and more vocal about the need to reopen the economy – especially since the pandemic had only resulted in one confirmed case and did not overwhelm medical resources.

Consequently, the approval to reopen was welcome news.

"Tomorrow, many of our businesses will finally get to flip those signs from closed to open!" proclaimed Crook County Judge Seth Crawford, in a Thursday morning announcement.

Crawford went on to praise government and health leaders involved in developing a plan that state officials ultimately approved.

This would not be possible without the outstanding work of our public health director, Muriel DeLaVergne-Brown," he said. "Muriel has worked tirelessly with both the governor's staff and healthcare providers here in Crook County. She personally ensured that we could meet all the criteria required by the governor to partially reopen Crook County businesses."

Crawford added that DeLaVergne-Brown put together the Crook County application then went on to help other struggling rural counties put together their own plans.

"She is not only a leader in our county, but in our state," he said, "and I hope you take a minute to thank her for all that she does if you should happen to catch her out and about."

Additional gratitude was given for "the reasonable and thoughtful responses" that Crawford said he received from most locals throughout pandemic.

"It is this cool-headed approach from our Crook County citizens that has got us to this point of reopening," he said.

The first phase of reopening businesses comes with a list of requirements determined by the Oregon Health Authority. At restaurants and bars, tables must be spaced at least 6 feet apart and dining parties must be limited to 10 people or fewer. No counter seating will be allowed.

Employees will be required to wear face masks and while customers will not be required to do so, businesses are asked to strongly encourage patrons to do so – except when they are seated at tables.

Businesses are told to prohibit self-service operations such as buffets, salad bars, soda machines and growler refilling stations, and they must provide salt, pepper and condiments in single-service packets. If that is not possible, condiment containers should not be preset on the table and should be disinfected between dining parties. Also, preset tableware is discouraged, and menus must be single use, cleanable between customers or posted to avoid multiple points of contact.

Businesses are instructed to prohibit use of karaoke machines, pool tables and bowling, although use of video lottery terminals will be allowed with limitations. Operational machines must be placed 6 feet apart and patrons must request machine access from an employee before playing. In addition, businesses must limit one player at or around each machine.

Oregon Health Authority noted that Oregon Lottery will not turn on machines at a business until the agency is satisfied that all conditions have been met.

Personal care and services businesses, including barbers and salons, can reopen but must serve customers by appointment only. In addition, employees must wear personal protective equipment and the businesses are required to collect trace contact information.

Gyms and fitness centers may reopen as well, provided they set a maximum gathering limit that enables the facilities to adhere to 6-foot social distancing guidelines and follow certain sanitation guidelines.

Retail businesses can also reopen if physical distancing guidelines are followed, and Phase I increases the recommended social gathering maximum to 25 people.

Crook County Parks and Recreation District announced Thursday that it will reopen Ochoco Lake Campground and Haystack Reservoir West Shore to local use. The district is also reopening the Crook County RV Park, the Prineville skate park and the adjacent pickleball courts.

"Those who use these areas will need to practice social distancing by maintaining at least 6 feet of physical distance between parties," Garner said, clarifying that parties are defined as groups of 10 people or less who arrived at the site together.

In adherence to Phase I guidelines, local playgrounds, picnic shelters and structures, water parks and sports courts for contact sports such as basketball will remain closed.

Crawford is urging businesses and residents to adhere to the Phase I guidelines.

"Crook County is a place where people look out for each other and where we take personal responsibility for ourselves," he said. "If we want to keep our businesses open, we need to continue to do our best to work within the state's guidelines. I know people are frustrated with the guidelines, but we are all in this together, and we need to keep each other safe and our businesses open."

Crawford cautioned that if county businesses and residents fail to follow the guidelines, "we are not just risking our health, we are putting another person's business and livelihood in jeopardy."

"The governor's staff has told Muriel as well as (Commissioners) Jerry (Brummer), Brian (Barney) and I, that if people operate outside of the guidelines, the governor will reissue the stay at home order," Crawford stated. "Licensing for many of our businesses that are set to open is issued through the state. We cannot risk the state revoking those licenses, thus stripping forms of income from those businesses like lottery dollars or alcohol sales. Following the guidelines and keeping our businesses open while keeping our neighbors safe is the ultimate way of showing that we are Crook County strong."

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